Quality and safety of hospital discharge: a study on experiences and perceptions of patients, relatives and care providers

Gijs Hesselink, Lisette Schoonhoven, Marieke Plas, Hub Wollersheim, Myrra Vernooij-Dassen
International Journal for Quality in Health Care 2013, 25 (1): 66-74

OBJECTIVE: To identify barriers experienced and perceived at discharge by physicians, nurses, patients and relatives.

DESIGN: We developed questionnaires based on focus group interviews with hospital and community care providers, and individual interviews with patients and relatives. A survey was conducted among patients, relatives and related nurses and physicians from hospital and community care.

SETTING: One university hospital and the related community care area in the Netherlands.

PARTICIPANTS: Thirty health-care providers and eight patients and/or relatives participated in focus group and individual interviews. Questionnaires were returned by 344 health-care providers and 206 patients and relatives.

RESULTS: Information from the hospital to community care is often incomplete, unclear and delayed. Especially hospital physicians (52%) and general practitioners (GPs; 63%) experience the quality of information exchanged from the hospital to the GP as poor. Coordination of care is often frustrated by a lack of care provider knowledge and collaboration. Hospital physicians (47%) and GPs (71%) feel that hospital physicians are often not sufficiently aware of the patient's home situation. Respectively, 59 and 81% experience that the GP is often not clearly informed about expected tasks and responsibilities at discharge.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study that provides a clear picture of the experiences and perceptions of stakeholders regarding handovers at hospital discharge. Lack of knowledge, understanding and interest between hospital and community care providers are important causes for ineffective and unsafe discharge. The study suggests that improvement efforts should be focused more on these aspects, as primary conditions for improving hospital discharge.

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